Inside: Get college meal prep ideas that make it easier for busy students to stay well nourished. Includes a free 4-week food prep plan with instructions and grocery lists.

There is more to college meal prep than stockpiling rows of ramen.

Hey, no disrespect–it’s the ultimate 25-cent meal! But students cannot live on ramen alone. And the more well-nourished they are, the better they can navigate this busy time of life.

Plus, meal prepping is an A+ life skill.

So I designed a four-week college meal prep plan that’s affordable and easy. It makes days’ worth of delicious, healthy staples for meals and snacks.

If you’re a parent, this simple plan can help you arm your college kid with ideas. If you’re a student finding it hard to know what to buy or how to turn it into meals, you’re also in the right place. 

The perks of this healthy meal prep plan

  • It saves a bunch of money compared to food delivery and eating out
  • It includes easy recipes that are simple to prepare, plus some vegetarian options
  • It makes it easier to eat healthy meals and snacks

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: For 10 easy meals that can be made in a dorm room, check out my post Healthy Dorm Food Ideas.

What’s included in each week

  • 1 idea for a healthy breakfast for busy mornings
  • 1 idea for a quick lunch or a dinner at the end of a long day
  • 1 bonus idea for extra snack recipes or healthy meal staples
  • A weekly shopping list

How to follow this college meal prep plan

  • Read through each week’s lineup and review the recipes. If there’s anything you don’t like, swap in something else and adjust the shopping list. Some of the weeks use similar ingredients, so tweak the shopping lists as needed. (This plan obviously doesn’t cover all meals for the entire week, so round out the lists with other food, too.)
  • Get your groceries and gather containers.
  • Set aside time for prep. For most students, the easiest time to do food prep is Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Each week’s prep plan should take about 2 hours.
  • Review the instructions for storing everything, paying attention to how long foods last.

Kitchen equipment needed

  • Baking sheet
  • Muffin tin
  • Skillet
  • Blender
  • Square baking dish
  • Medium saucepan with lid
  • Mixing bowls and spoons
  • Cutting board
  • Sharp knife
  • Spatula
  • Stovetop
  • Oven
  • Microwave
  • Griddle (optional)
  • Instant Pot (optional)

Basic pantry staples needed

  • Oil: Such as olive or canola
  • Cooking spray
  • Salt/pepper
Week One College Meal Prep Collage with photos of Egg Muffins, rice bowls, and energy bites.

Week 1 Game Plan

  1. Prep Scrambled Egg Muffins and put in oven.
  2. While they bake:
    • Get 2 cups brown rice or white rice going in a saucepan or in the Instant Pot (here are Instant Pot instructions).
    • Prep and cook a batch of Crispy Tofu on the stove (OR use store-bought rotisserie chicken).
    • When muffins are done, increase oven temperature to 400 degrees F. Cut 2-3 cups of veggies of your choice into uniform-ish-size pieces, toss in 1-2 tablespoons oil, and spread on baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for 20-25 minutes or until browned and tender.
    • Shake up a batch of Peanut Sauce in a glass mason jar.
  3. Mix and roll Protein Balls.

Week 1 Storing & Reheating Instructions

  • Cool Scrambled Egg Muffins on a wire cooling rack and then store in an airtight container for 3-4 days, reheating in the microwave until hot and steaming before serving.
  • Portion rice bowl ingredients into airtight containers OR portion rice, veggies, and tofu or chicken into ready-to-grab individual meals in containers such as these glass meal prep boxes. Pack Peanut Sauce separately in a leak-proof container. When ready to eat, reheat containers in microwave and top with sauce. Sauce can be thinned with a drizzle of water before serving. Eat rice bowls within 3-5 days.
  • Store Protein Balls in an airtight container in the refrigerator and eat within one week.

Week 1 Grocery List

  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Sausage (regular or vegetarian)
  • Green onions (optional)
  • Rice (brown or white) OR 2 packages of cauliflower rice
  • Extra-firm tofu (OR a store-bought rotisserie chicken)
  • Olive oil
  • Soy sauce
  • Rice vinegar
  • Sesame oil
  • Cornstarch
  • Veggies of choice (broccoli, bell peppers, carrots)
  • Peanut butter
  • Maple syrup
  • Garlic
  • Oats
  • Honey
  • Dry milk powder
  • Mini chocolate chips
Week Two collage with Protein Pancakes, jarred salad, and oat bars.

Week 2

  • Protein Pancakes: Eat with syrup, spread with peanut butter, or enjoy plain
  • Jarred Salads: Includes a chicken OR vegetarian protein source
  • Nut-Free Oat Snack Bars: Makes a quick breakfast, snack, or dessert

Week 2 Plan

  1. Blend Protein Pancake batter and let it rest while skillet or griddle is heating up.
  2. Prep Protein Pancakes and set aside to cool.
  3. Prep 3-5 Jarred Salads:
    • Cook 1 pound chicken on stove (I like this method) or in Instant Pot (here’s how to make shredded chicken in the Instant Pot) OR cook 3-5 veggie burgers OR drain and rinse chickpeas.
    • Wash and prep 2-3 cups fresh veggies to include in jarred salads, such as chopped or shredded carrots, chopped celery or cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, etc.
    • Gather 1-2 cups other salad ingredients, such as nuts or seeds, dried or chopped fruits, and a soft flavorful cheese like crumbled cheddar, feta, or goat cheese.
    • Wash and dry 3-5 cups salad greens (or use pre-rinsed greens).
    • Assemble jarred salads, putting the heaviest ingredients on the bottom, ending with the greens on top, and then screw on the lids tightly for storage.
  4. Bake a batch of Nut-Free Oat Bars.

Week 2 Storing & Reheating Instructions

  • Store leftover Protein Pancakes in an airtight container and keep refrigerated. Reheat in a microwave, toaster oven, or skillet on the stove. They can also be eaten cold. Leftover pancakes are best if eaten within one week.
  • Package jarred salads in large mason jars with tight lids, putting heaviest ingredients on bottom and ending with greens at the top. Keep salads refrigerated. When ready to eat, dump contents into a large bowl or on a plate. Keep salad dressing separate and add just before serving.
  • Cut Nut-Free Oat Bars into squares and place in an airtight container. You can keep them on the counter for 1-3 days, but because they’re so moist, transfer them to the refrigerator after that.

Week 2 Grocery List

  • Eggs
  • Oats
  • ​Cottage cheese
  • Maple syrup
  • Baking powder
  • Cinnamon
  • 1 pound fresh chicken OR 1 package veggie burgers OR 1 can chickpeas
  • Chicken broth (if prepping chicken in Instant Pot)
  • ​Salad greens
  • Veggies and/or fruits of choice for salads
  • Nuts and soft cheese of choice for salads
  • Salad dressing
  • Flour (white whole wheat and/or all-purpose)
  • Baking powder
  • Cinnamon
  • Applesauce
  • Honey
  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate chips
  • Parchment paper
Week three of college meal prep collage with oatmeal muffins, burritos, and raw veggies.

Week 3

  • Oatmeal Cup Muffins: Like portable baked oatmeal
  • Burritos: Beef or vegetarian options
  • Prepped raw veggies: For snacking with dip, topping salads, or tossing into recipes

Week 3 Plan

  1. Mix up Oatmeal Cup batter and bake in a muffin tin.
  2. Cook meat/mushroom mixture in Beef Burritos recipe OR drain and rinse a can of black beans.
  3. Assemble burritos and package in a zip-top bag (Vegetarian instructions: Heat drained, rinsed black beans in a skillet on the stove, smashing with a fork. Stir in taco seasoning. Spoon onto the center of 4 warmed tortillas and sprinkle with shredded cheese. Fold in the sides and roll.)
  4. Wash and cut 3-4 cups raw veggies (or however many you’d like for the week).

Week 3 Storing & Reheating Instructions

  • Keep the Oatmeal Cups in an airtight container or zip-top bag. You can keep them on the counter for 1-2 days, then transfer to the fridge and eat within one week. They are very moist and will spoil if left at room temperature for more than a couple days.
  • Place rolled burritos on a baking sheet to cool (if you have room in your freezer, set the tray inside for about 10 minutes). Place burritos in a gallon-size zip-top bag (plastic or reusable) and refrigerate up to 3-5 days, The Beef Burrito recipe makes 8 burritos, so put extras in the freezer and eat within three months.
  • Store cut veggies in airtight containers and eat within 5-7 days for best quality.

Week 3 Grocery List

  • Eggs
  • Oats
  • ​Milk
  • Bananas
  • Maple syrup
  • Oats
  • Peanut butter
  • Baking powder
  • Vanilla
  • Cinnamon
  • Tortillas (burrito-sized)
  • 1 pound lean ground beef (or turkey) OR 1 can black beans
  • White mushrooms
  • Enchilada sauce
  • Refried beans
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Spices: paprika, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder OR taco seasoning mix in a packet
  • Favorite fillings/toppings for burritos (such as sour cream, salsa, or guacamole)
  • Fresh veggies of choice for bonus raw veggies
  • Favorite dip for fresh veggies (such as ranch, hummus, etc)
Week four of college meal prep ideas with photos of smoothie packets, snack boxes, and baked potatoes.

Week 4

  • Smoothie Packets: Customized packets that can be tossed in a blender with milk (dairy or non-dairy) and optional protein powder
  • Protein Boxes: Prepped boxes that include protein foods like hard-boiled eggs, cheese, edamame, roasted chickpeas, and nuts.
  • Baked potatoes (white or sweet): For snacks or meals with favorite toppings

Week 4 Plan

  1. Assemble 3-5 Smoothie Packets.
  2. Assemble 3-5 Protein Boxes:
  3. Wash 3-5 large potatoes (white or sweet), poke them all over with a fork, rub lightly with oil and sprinkle with salt, then bake them in a 400 degree F oven for 50-60 minutes. OR poke them all over with a fork and microwave them for about 8 minutes or until tender when pierced with a knife.

Week 3 Storing & Reheating Instructions

  • For Smoothie Packs, use either plastic or reusable bags such as Stasher Bags. For best results, use within a few weeks.
  • Package Protein Boxes in airtight containers such as EasyLunchboxes Snack Boxes and use within 7 days.
  • Cool potatoes and store in an airtight container, using within 4 days. To reheat baked potatoes, cut in half and lightly smash flesh with a fork, then microwave until hot and steaming. Apply favorite toppings like black beans, shredded cheese, salsa, cooked vegetables, bacon bits, etc.

Week 4 Grocery List

  • Bananas
  • Milk of choice (dairy or non-dairy)
  • Strawberries (fresh or frozen)
  • Ground flaxseed (optional)
  • Fresh baby spinach
  • Protein powder (optional–can add to smoothies for extra protein)
  • Eggs
  • Protein-rich foods for Protein Boxes such as frozen edamame, roasted chickpeas, nuts, cheese cubes, and deli meat
  • Crackers and fruit for Protein Boxes
  • Potatoes (white or sweet)
  • Toppings of choice for potatoes (such as sour cream, frozen broccoli or spinach, shredded cheese, black beans, bacon bits, etc)

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